Realising that the ISIS-K is now the most dangerous group operating in Afghanistan, the State Department has designated three of its leaders as Global Terrorists. The ISIS-K has spread itself out in Afghanistan and was responsible for the suicide blast near Kabul airport during the evacuation in August, killing 170 or so Afghans as well as 13 American soldiers.
The three are names do not ring a bell for ordinary people as so little is known about this terror group. Having brought back its troops from Afghanistan and left the hapless people of that country to deal with the consequences, the Biden administration has faced criticism both at home and abroad. Perhaps in an effort to prove that Washington still has its eyes on Afghanistan, the State Department said in a statement, "The United States is committed to using its full set of counterterrorism tools to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province, commonly referred to as ISIS-K, as part of our relentless efforts to ensure Afghanistan cannot again become a platform for international terrorism.’’
Yet designating ISIS-K leaders as global terrorists will have little effect on the ground. They are firmly ensconced in Afghanistan and the designation will enhance their reputation among the ISIS-K fighters. The names released by the State Department on November 22 are :
Sanaullah Ghafari, also known as Shahab al-Muhajir, is ISIS-K’s current overall emir. He was appointed by the ISIS core to lead ISIS-K in June 2020. Ghafari is responsible for approving all ISIS-K operations throughout Afghanistan and arranging funding to conduct operations.
Sultan Aziz Azam, also known as Sultan Aziz, has held the position of ISIS-K spokesperson since ISIS-K first came to Afghanistan.
Maulawi Rajab, also known as Maulawi Rajab Salahudin, is a senior leader of ISIS-K in Kabul Province, Afghanistan. Rajab plans ISIS-K’s attacks and operations and commands ISIS-K groups conducting attacks in Kabul.
"Additionally, the U.S. Department of the Treasury is designating Ismatullah Khalozai pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for providing financial support to ISIS-K. Khalozai has been an international financial facilitator for ISIS-K and has carried out missions for senior ISIS leadership.âÂÂÂÂ¯ Khalozai operated a Turkey-based hawala business to transfer funds to finance ISIS-K operations.âÂÂÂÂ¯ He also operated a United Arab Emirates-based financing scheme, which involved sending luxury items to international destinations for resale, in an effort to generate funds for ISIS-K,’’ the State Department said in a statement .
The three main leaders will not be affected. The only person who may face some difficulty is Ismatullah Khalozai, named for terror financing and lives abroad. But the hawala transaction routes can be reworked, though it may not be as easy as it was earlier.
The ISIS-K and the Taliban are fighting a turf war in Afghanistan. The outfit has also carried out a number of deadly attacks in the country. The target often is Shia mosques and shrines. According to reports from Afghanistan, the Taliban too is taking on the ISIS-K cadres in Jalalabad. In recent times there have been reports of several killings of suspected ISIS-K fighters, though there have been no large-scale group clashes yet.
With no troops on the ground in Afghanistan and without the help of the Afghan army that operated and supplied ground reports to the US soldiers, Washington cannot effectively deal with the terror group. The level of trust between the Taliban and the US has not yet developed to get intelligence on the movement of the ISIS-K cadres. The drone strikes of August 29 in Kabul targeted against what the American’s initially said were two bombers planning a major terror strike on the city, which turned out to be a mistake. Instead of terrorists, the drones killed 10 civilians including seven children. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the Pentagon had to admit its mistake and apologise. ends